Belief bias and relational reasoning

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When people evaluate categorical syllogisms, they tend to reject unbelievable conclusions and accept believable ones irrespective of their validity. Typically, this effect is particularly marked for invalid conclusions that are possible, but do not necessarily follow, given the premises. However, smaller believability effects can also be detected for other types of conclusion. Three experiments are reported here, in which an attempt was made to determine whether belief bias effects can manifest themselves on the relational inference task. Subjects evaluated the validity of conclusions such as William the Conqueror was king after the Pyramids were built (temporal task) or Manchester is north of Bournemouth (spatial task) with respect to their premises. All of the majorfindings for equivalent categorical syllogism tasks were replicated. However, the overall size of the main effect of believability appears to be related to task presentation, a phenomenon not previously identified for categorical syllogisms and which current theories of belief bias have difficulty explaining.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Essex, Colchester, UK

Publication date: January 1, 2003

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